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LePage continues fight against Medicaid expansion
Question of the Day
AUGUSTA, Maine (AP) - Gov. Paul LePage's administration continued fighting back against Medicaid expansion Wednesday, arguing that the growth of the program that provides health care to low-income Mainers is already crowding out funding elsewhere for such expenses as oil spill cleanup.
The Republican governor’s growing push against the expansion comes as a legislative committee began examining a new measure that would do just that, and implement other significant changes to the program as well.
In a news conference Wednesday, the head of the Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife and others said that they’ve faced funding cuts to fill budget holes largely caused by Medicaid, threatening their ability to effectively manage the state’s wildlife and natural resources.
Jessamine Logan, a spokeswoman for the Department of Environmental Protection, said $1 million was cut over the past decade from an oil spill cleanup fund. Meanwhile, Commissioner Walter Whitcomb said the Agriculture, Conservation and Energy’s Department budget has seen a $15 million reduction in state funding over the past five years.
Democrats are pushing back, pointing to slowed growth in the Medicaid spending over the last several years. The Health and Human Services Department projects an increase of less than 1 percent in overall spending in the Medicaid program in Maine this year over last. That’s down from a 12 percent increase in spending in 2012.
Under the expansion, the federal government says it will pay 100 percent of the costs for new enrollees in the program and gradually lower its share of the cost to 90 percent.
Democrats blamed the state’s budget problems on a $400 million tax cut LePage approved in 2011. They also blasted the administration’s idea that Medicaid is “cannibalizing” the budget, saying that most of Medicaid spending is for the children, elderly and disabled.
The Medicaid expansion debate is ramping up again with introduction of a bill Tuesday to expand the program and implement managed care in it. Under that proposal from two Republican senators, the state would contract with three or four organizations that would compete for Medicaid recipients and set up provider networks across state.
The Health and Human Services Committee began examining the bill Wednesday but put off a vote on the measure until Thursday. Votes in the full House and Senate are expected next week.
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